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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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One of the best land deals in United States history--the Louisiana Purchase

LOUISIANA PURCHASE. The Louisiana Purchase was the largest and most important annexation of land by the United States since the formation of the original thirteen colonies. The region, purchased from France in 1803, was an ill-defined area including all of present-day Iowa and extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It included the present state of Arkansas; portions of Colorado, the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, and Montana; most of Minnesota; and portions of Wyoming. Worried that he exceeded his constitutional rights, President Thomas Jefferson justified the purchase on the grounds of military need.

The region was first claimed by France based on the explorations of La Salle 1643-1687) who reached the mouth of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER in 1682. La Salle claimed all the land around the river and its tributaries and named the region for Louis XIV. In 1762 the area was ceded to Spain for claims to land in Italy.

American settlers in the area depended on the use of the Mississippi River to ship their goods. In 1795 Spain granted the United States the right to use the river and ship goods from the mouth of the river without paying duty. When this privilege was revoked in 1802 and the port of New Orleans was temporarily closed to Americans, President Jefferson quickly realized the importance of acquiring New Orleans. By 1801 it was known that Spain had ceded Louisiana back to France, a much more powerful nation. This made the transaction even more important.

Robert Livingstone, United States minister to France, was instructed by Jefferson to purchase New Orleans for two million dollars. Negotiations began in France in April 1803. Charles Talleyrand surprised the American negotiators by offering to sell the entire territory.

By April 29, 1803, terms of the sale had been finalized. France would receive $15 million. Congress ratified the treaty on October 21, 1803. Upon taking possession of the territory, Congress divided it into the Territory of Orleans, about the area of the present state of Louisiana, and the District of Louisiana, everything north of the present border of the state. With the payment of interest, the final price for the Louisiana Territory came to $27,267,622 or four cents per acre.